Much of this week's talk has focused on the first two quarterbacks selected in the 2013 draft squaring off, and the importance of stopping the "two-headed monster" that is C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. In addition to EJ (Manuel) and C.J. and F.J. though, there's another "J" to worry about — WR Stevie Johnson.
A seventh-round draft pick in '08, the 6'2", 210-pound wideout has emerged as one of the league's best pass catchers, having hauled in 27 touchdowns in his 66 career games, including two already this season.
"He is a great receiver," head coach Rex Ryan said after Thursday's practice when asked to compare Johnson to receivers such as Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. "He's not as big as them, but he's a big man still."
Though he's neither the biggest nor the fastest receiver in the league, Johnson finds ways to create separation and get open. "His style is unique," Rex said, "but he's excellent at getting off press coverage in particular."
So excellent, in fact, that the man assigned with covering him, CB Antonio Cromartie, believes the "crafty receiver" gets off the jam better than any other receiver in the league.
"I think the biggest thing is to try to get your hands on him as quick as possible and just go from there," Cromartie said.
While Antonio has played quite a few games against Johnson over the two players' tenures in the AFC East, this will be his first time going up against the Bills' rookie QB. Both Cromartie and Manuel played college ball at Florida State though, so New York's cornerback has watched a plethora of games featuring Buffalo's quarterback.
"He's a guy who's not going to turn the ball over," Cromartie said of his fellow Seminole. "He's a very confident guy who understands what he wants to do. He's a guy that wants to make sure he takes control of his offense, and that's exactly what he's been doing these past few games."
Fortunately for the Jets, Cromartie and his teammates, with the exception of T Oday Aboushi (out with a practice knee injury), will either be full-go or probable entering Sunday's AFC East showdown vs. the Bills.
The eighth-year veteran cornerback's nagging hip injury is "actually starting to feel a whole lot better" and the best it's been since the first day of training camp.
"I was only playing on one hip [in the first two games]," he said at his locker this week, "but for me that's no excuse at all, because when I'm out there, my teammates, my coaches, everybody expects for me to be 100 percent. This is probably the closest to 100 percent that I'm going to get, so I'm feeling real good right about now."
Follow the Orange Rubber Ball
The pigskin hit the turf a few too many times during last week's 13-10 loss in New England, but our receivers have not dropped the ball on doing everything they can to minimize this issue going forward.
In addition to spending a few extra minutes after each practice with the JUGS machine, WR Clyde Gates took it upon himself to add a new wrinkle into the wideouts' normal routine. Lined up for stretching and warmups prior to today's practice, the receivers tossed around a seven-pound orange rubber football.
"We don't want to get casual with catching the ball," Gates said.
"It was like a 'Hey Ben!' and then all of a sudden the ball's right there," seventh-year WR Ben Obomanu said. "It gets our awareness up, makes us cognizant of the ball and forces us to have our hands in the right place to catch the ball."
"Every receiver has drops," Rex Ryan said. His advice: "Play relaxed, have some fun, go get it."